The All-Party Parliamentary Group on General Aviation (APPG-GA) has welcomed two pro-General Aviation changes made to the new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) but says government has more to do if it wishes to return General Aviation, and its many supporting skills to the global pre-eminence set out in its policy.
The APPG-GA says that it received ‘literally thousands’ of submissions in response to its call for submissions during the consultation phase of the NPPF and was ‘delighted’ with the response. As a result, it says, two important changes have been made to the NPPF, and further relevant changes are anticipated.
The key change is to paragraph 105 (which has been renumbered as paragraph 104 in the revised NPPF). Paragraph 104(f) now reads:
“recognise the importance of maintaining a national network of general aviation airfields, and their need to adapt and change over time – taking into account their economic value in serving business, leisure, training and emergency service needs, and the Government’s General Aviation Strategy.”
The APPG-GA says that this paragraph provides an extremely important definition of General Aviation for the first time. The APPG-GA had called for the phrase ‘maintaining a national network of general aviation airfields’ to be expanded to ‘protecting, maintaining and enhancing a national network of general aviation airfields’. This was not adopted by Government, however the reference to the need for airfields to ‘adapt and change over time’ is an enhancement which was first mooted for the glossary to the NPPF, and which therefore now has greater prominence and effect. The APPG rates this inclusion as 9/10, despite the slightly disappointing failure to include any reference to ‘protecting’ or ‘enhancing’ GA airfields.
The second major change which the APPG, and its consultation responses, has achieved relates to the introduction of a formal definition for General Aviation Airfields to the glossary:
“General aviation airfields: Licensed or unlicensed aerodromes with hard or grass runways often with extensive areas of open land related to aviation activity.”
The APPG had proposed a further two sentences, namely:
“Airfields form part of the national transport infrastructure. Changes in technology will require aerodromes to adapt and change over time.”
The second of these has been incorporated into paragraph 104(f), and the first sentence is, perhaps, self-evident and, given that it makes no specific reference to GA airfields, its omission might be thought less of a problem. The APPG-GA rates this change as 8/10.
Two other proposed changes have not been incorporated. A bid to offer similar protection to GA airfields as is already given to sports clubs and music venues (so that newcomers to an area can’t object to their operation if they have been long-established) has not been adopted, but ministers have said that they will work with the APPG and look to incorporate this into guidance, which will be issued at the same time as the revised NPPF is published.
An attempt was also made to change a glossary description of ‘previously developed land’ to provide an exclusion for “land that is or has been used for aviation purposes”. The failure to achieve this is a disappointment (the APPG gives it 0/10) but the Government view was that some airfields have disappeared without trace, and should not be excluded from redevelopment on the grounds that the land was once used as an airfield. The APPG would have preferred an amendment to incorporate ‘existing airfields’.
Commenting on the newly published NPPF, the Parliamentary Group Chair, Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP, said:
“For the first time Planning Policy in England recognises the importance of maintaining a national network of general aviation airfields for their contribution to national infrastructure and our economy. In addition, we have also won an important Glossary definition for airfields, which should help at future planning inquiries.
“However, the government has missed an opportunity to include airfields in the same category as sports clubs and live music venues when it comes to preventing new residents moving into an area, then attempting to close down an airfield which has served the area for decades before they moved in. Ministers have however pledged to work with parliamentarians to address this problem through the detailed Guidance which will sit alongside the main planning document.”